Once upon a time there was fun and college and everything seemed like it would go one the same way forever. You’d whisper secrets in the dark with friends, about who wanted who. What she was wearing. Where to road trip to. Adulthood, while looming large, still seemed a long, long way off. So you are cruising, feeling like the world is your playground, and you are still as immortal as you were in ninth grade. And then it happens, you are out somewhere, with friends, and someone says those three words:
"We’re getting married."
She’s talking too fast and he has his arm around her shoulders, and they are both proud. They have expectant faces because they are waiting for their congratulations. I said the first thing that came into me head, spitting the words through my mouthful of chicken fingers.
"Holy crap," I yelled and everyone turned around to look at me. "Congratulations," I say then to cover my tracks, maybe a little too loudly, but I’ve already done it. I’ve already shown my true feeling: shock.
The girls (I mean the girls who aren’t me, the real girls who know how one is supposed to react to that sort of news) are cooing and giggling. The future bride is gobbling this up, basking in the warmth such news will cause, making everyone everyone else’s girlfriend. Looks are shot around the table between the men, and myself. They say many things with their eyes. More than a few echo my original sentiment. Some are cynical. Some of the girls get depressed. They are thinking about the fact that they don’t even have boyfriends. The future husband is oblivious to all of this. He is looking at his bride.
Why are we so shocked? Why does the news evoke so many different emotions in so many people? Just minutes before I had been telling sick jokes and there had been a raucous debate on whether "hooking up" is cool. Just minutes before we had been kids. It didn’t matter if I clock in as the youngest at twenty-two. Or that we are all college graduates (or should be). There was nothing to differentiate us from any other group of students.
When your first set of friends gets married, it marks a turning point. Suddenly your friends are old enough to be married, which loosely translates to you being old enough to be married. Which again means that you are old enough for a lot of other things, too. Kids, mini-vans and mammograms. A real job.
None of us have any of these things yet. Some of my friends haven’t even finished school. Many of our cars are falling apart, and most of us still live at home. Then our friends announce their engagement and we all wonder: Is there something wrong with the schedule we are on? Should we be finding mates? Is it time to buckle down and grow up? This idea scares us. We want to go on road trips and drink until we throw up. We want to spend weekends high. Married friends threaten our way of life because they make us question our current existence.
We congratulate them again. We really are happy for them, but they scare us. And someday, we will be like them, and we know this to be true, even while we deny it on the car ride home. We will grow up, but not yet.